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When Alan posed the question "What are the blues? What do they mean to you?" the answers were in part something he sought for himself, to understand this musical form that may have been as ancient as the griots in West Africa, or perhaps as recent as the automobile, the airplane, and the phonograph (all of which made guest appearances in the blues). The blues had become a craze, like ragtime, which grew up alongside it, and it leaped from the bottom of the social order to the Astors and the Vanderbilts, who staged blues contests for their own amusement well before the rest of white America came to know them - from Alan Lomax, The Man Who Recorded the World, by John Szwed